The Constellations’ “Southern Gothic”

“Southern Gothic is an album of shuffles—with each play the tracks take you in different directions…” -VP

Luke Goddard

out of 10

Southern Gothic
June 22, 2010

From the “underbelly of Atlanta” come The Constellations with Southern Gothic. It sounds… interesting. Like the album’s name suggests, the tracks do paint seedy images of their Southern hometown. So what’s that nightlife of debauchery and shattered glass like? A mess.

The different beats, sounds, and percussive elements are thrown together kind of haphazardly, but in a way that seems to work—half the time. The album boasts a range of influences—Southern rock, hip-hop, some rap, some Manchester waves, children, and even a little dance-pop-funk. At first I was really intrigued by the intertwining of each different style in a masterful way, but going from track to track seemed to break flow and rhythm for me. It was definitely a ride full of surprises and consistent inconsistency.

Southern Gothic starts off with “Setback,” a track that is instantly catchy. There are so many different familiar sounds: keyboards, echoes, strings, drums, whistles, and an offbeat rhythm that you can’t help but feel the need to drink and dance to.

The second track, “Perfect Day,” definitely has some lyrics that are slightly dark (“My mind slips further from what’s real/ Take my hands away from the steering wheel /I’m crashing…and it’s a perfect day to leave this place”), reminding everyone of the kind of life that runs through Atlanta when you’re out of money and wandering in the dark between The Drunken Unicorn and Spring Street.

The Constellations remind me a lot of Happy Mondays and even the Chemical Brothers, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly because they are all over the place without a unified sound. They’ve got potential, though. With appearances from Cee-Lo and even Asher Roth (ha!), how could they not? OK, but really, it’s Elijah Jones’ voice that seems to keep it all together for me. It’s raspy, tired, and really bluesy-sounding. That, paired with the band’s atypical instrumental choices, makes them great complements.

My favourite song on the album is the bluesy-Andre-3000-esque “Felicia” with its catchy lyrics singing, “Felicia/ Babe, I think I really, really need ya/ So sexy when you’re working on your knees girl/ I’m outta my head /I don’t believe ya /I need ya.” It makes me want to shimmy. I dig it. Then, “Step Right Up” knocks my ears off-kilter. It isn’t so bad with its funky essence, but it’s just so different from the previous track that I get thrown off and forget that I’m listening to the same album.

Southern Gothic is an album of shuffles—with each play the tracks take you in different directions, never knowing where you’ll be turning next or what sound will warm up your ears. It’s not bad, per se, but I think I could only listen to it while drinking a glass of wine. It’s definitely an album that you’ll have to get in the mood for, but I mean, if you’re not in the mood, then be prepared to hit play and then >>, >>, >>.

–Victoria Phetmisy, July 30, 2010